Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food gets wasted each year globally. Landfills are overflowing with food that could otherwise be donated to charity or given away to employees. Next to food, other products such as paper (napkins, drawing paper for kids, etc.) and plastic are being tossed out instead of efficiently reused.

Restaurants are getting more eco-conscious and making changes to reduce their negative impact on the planet. Through the reduction of waste, your restaurant can position itself as an eco-friendly brand, and maybe even help save the planet. Your restaurant will spend less money on replacing wasted products and food, as well.

Today, helping the environment is more important than ever. Read on to learn seven different ways you can reduce waste at your restaurants (quick tip: reducing and reusing means saving money!).

1.   Reuse any products you can

Instead of placing oversized napkin dispensers on tables or handing guests five napkins to only have them use three, give guests napkins that can be washed and reused. The same goes for tablecloths: Some kid-friendly restaurants provide tablecloths that can be drawn on, which wastes a lot of paper. Either use washable tablecloths or forego them altogether (and hand each child a piece of paper and crayons). As for menus, laminate menus, or put them in a casing that allows them to be reused, paper menus are easily stained and constantly need to be thrown away.

If your restaurant uses disposable silverware or straws, make a plan to eliminate them and reduce the waste your restaurant creates. Replace plasticware with washable silverware, and stop offering straws to customers unless requested. Also, look into new, biodegradable straw options that are better for the environment, or try reusable, washable straws.

2.   Install a POS system

POS systems allow the staff to take orders digitally rather than writing them down on paper to help reduce paper waste. POS systems also allow restaurateurs to efficiently keep track of inventory, which means it’s easy to know exactly what items need to be reordered and how much of each item. This prevents over-ordering, which can lead to food waste.

How do POS systems help restaurants cut down on waste?

  •       Paperless ordering options
  •       Automated inventory tracking
  •       Reporting and analytics of sales helps to know which items to stock up on, and which to buy less of

3.   Donate leftovers to charity

Of the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year, roughly 520 million tons are from restaurants. Nowadays, more and more charities are popping up nationwide that allow restaurants to donate unused food. There’s even a law protecting restaurants from being sued for donating unused food if it makes a person ill (there are also no documented lawsuits of this type), provided there was no intentional misconduct or negligence when handling the food.

Some restaurants are even taking advantage of tax deductions thanks to food donations. See the conditions of getting a tax deduction from donating your leftovers to charity. Charitable food donation tax deductions are limited to less than 10% of the net income of your restaurant, but this can be a huge help come tax season.

4.   Give uneaten leftovers to employees

Sometimes you have a soup special that just doesn’t sell. Since charities tend to have strict guidelines about what they can and cannot accept as a donation, you might end up having far more leftover soup and be unable to donate it. Ask employees if they want to take any home for dinner. The same goes for the leftover salad or any other unused products.

As long as they’re safe to eat, employees would love to chow down; you’ll reduce food waste and increase overall employee happiness and loyalty. A free meal goes a long way to increase the morale of the employees in your restaurant.

5.   Use Perishable Produce Quickly

In 2017, hyperlocal sourcing—growing produce or raising meat in the same location as your restaurant—was named the number one concept trend for new restaurants. However, it’s important to know that farm-to-table fruits and vegetables have a shorter shelf life than ones that contain preservatives.

Keep track of when you pick fruits and vegetables to make sure you’re using them in time and not throwing anything away. With Lavu POS integrated systems, track your inventory and get detailed reporting that helps know when to reorder fresh produce and perishable food items to use it within an optimal time frame.

6.   Store all food properly….and have a backup plan if something goes wrong

It can’t be stressed enough that refrigerators and freezers always need to be the proper temperature (Below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for refrigerators and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for freezers) in order for food to remain safe to eat. Failure to keep track of your food storage temperatures can lead to big problems with health and safety, and even lead to losing your restaurant due to health code violations.

If something goes wrong, such as a power outage, throw away any food that has been above 40 degrees for more than two hours. You should also invest in a generator to make sure you can keep your refrigerator or freezer running in the event of an outage.

To keep from throwing out food, install a Bluetooth temperature sensor in your food storage areas that will alert you of any issues. With these alerts in place, you can have repairs made before the food gets thrown out.

7.   Compost any food you can

Turning organic waste into compost lets that waste return to the environment in the form of nutrients for the soil. This reduces food waste that ends up in landfills and creates nutrient-rich soil to grow more organic products (it’s great to do if you’ve started hyper-local sourcing!). The process can be a little complex, so if you’re unsure about how to get started, here are some tips. 

Reducing restaurant waste is much easier than people think. Even something small, like replacing paper napkins with cloth ones, can help save your wallet and the environment in the long run. A bigger investment, like a POS system, might seem like too high a cost to deal with, but it tracks inventory to help ensure you’re only buying what you need; since you know when it was ordered, you can gauge when it will go bad. A big purchase now saves money in the long run, and donating anything you can’t use makes a big difference to those in need.